Your body needs cholesterol to work well. But cholesterol levels that are too high can be dangerous.
Extra cholesterol in your blood builds up inside the walls of your heartÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arteries (blood vessels). This buildup is called plaque. It narrows your arteries and reduces, or even stops, the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, or other serious heart disease.
See also: Cholesterol - drug treatment
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Most people should have their blood cholesterol levels tested at least every 5 years once they reach ages 20 - 45. Have your cholesterol checked more often (probably every year) if you have:
A blood cholesterol test measures the level of total cholesterol. This includes both HDL ("good") cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Your LDL level is what doctors watch most closely. You want it to be low. If it gets too high, you will need to treat it.
You may also need medicine to lower your cholesterol.
You want your HDL cholesterol to be high.
It is still important to eat right, keep a healthy weight, and exercise even if:
These healthy habits may help prevent future heart attacks and other health problems.
Eat foods that are naturally low in fat. These include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Keep them low in fat. Using low-fat toppings, sauces, and dressings will help.
Eat foods that are high in soluble fiber. Some of these are oats, bran, split peas and lentils, beans (such as kidney, black, and navy beans), some cereals, and brown rice.
Learn how to shop for and cook foods that are healthy for your heart. Learn how to read food labels to choose healthy foods. Stay away from fast-food restaurants, where healthy choices can be hard to find.
Getting plenty of exercise will also help. Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise might be best for you.